Traditional Fairy Tale Elements in Shrek

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Once upon a time an Ogre left his swamp to go save the princess. Oh wait, aren’t Ogre’s supposed to kill princesses? So, why didn’t the actual prince save the princess? Well, in the movie Shrek 2, it was a total reversal of the traditional fairy tale elements. Although one’s first impressions may lead you to believe that that the story is totally different to a traditional fairytale looking more closely you find that there are a few similarities. In this modern fairytale, money and the status is not the only thing that kept Shrek and Princess Fiona apart. In a traditional fairytale you would expect to find a prince and a princess who fall in love and live happily ever after. For example in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the prince comes and rescues Snow White and then they live happily ever after. In Shrek the prince is revealed to be evil, and the princess turns out to be an ogre and not as beautiful on the outside as first impressions may lead you to believe. Throughout the film the ugly ogre is slowly revealed as good whereas in a traditional fairytale the ogre would have been evil throughout the story. During the film there are a lot more differences which help us to see that the ogre is good and the Prince is evil.

Toward the start of the film, the opening scene is much the same as any customary fairytale tale which utilizes a recognizable opening expression ”Once upon a time.’ This is all of a sudden hindered by snapping the book shut. Shrek then shows up and modern day rap music begins to play. This surprises the viewers and begins to give the audience the impression that this is not going to be a conventional fairytale. When the fairy tale characters arrive at Shrek’s house, Shrek threatens them saying he will ‘grind your bones for my bread’ and ‘shave your liver and make jelly from your eyes.’ He tries to frighten them away by his threats and telling them that ‘Ogres are worse than giants.’ He achieves his aim and scares of the characters and they run away screaming. This gives the audience the impression that he is a traditional ogre who is terrifying and evil. This supports the view about ogres being man eating beasts in traditional fairy tales.

When Donkey and Shrek meet, Shrek attempts to intimidate the donkey but Donkey is not frightened and he just ridicules Shrek about his bad breath by saying that he ‘needs some Tic- Tacs.’ Donkey is not at all frightened and continues irritating Shrek by persistently asking him questions. Shrek tries to scare the Donkey away again by reminding him that he is an ogre but Donkey is not remotely frightened. Later on the film mice run around the table and up on Shrek’s shoulders. As Shrek tries to catch them he fails on numerous occasions turning this scene into a bit of a comedy. The behaviour of the donkey and the mice suggests that Shrek is not as frightening an ogre as he should be and shows the soft side of him. This makes the viewers sympathise Shrek and notice that he is not as bad as first impressions show. Throughout the film Shrek continuously has to remind the other characters that he is an ogre and therefore they should be scared of him. He also threatens characters throughout the film but the audience soon works out that these are empty threats and Shrek is not capable of carrying them out even if he wanted to. This shows how the film has reversed the traditions of fairytales and shows that although first impressions may lead viewers to believe that Shrek is a traditional ogre these scenes show that Shrek really isn’t as intimidating or scary.

In contrast to Shrek’s character, Lord Farquaad is revealed to be cruel and evil. When he is shown torturing the gingerbread man we see him as the heartless character he is. He is shown as selfish and arrogant. He taunts and mocks the gingerbread man by saying ‘run, run, run as fast as you can’ although he knows that the gingerbread man is going nowhere without his legs. He then tries to pull off the gingerbread man’s buttons even though the gingerbread man is begging continuously. He then throws the screaming gingerbread man into the bin. He is evil and inconsiderate and has shows no affection towards others. At the end of the film when the princess is revealed as an ogre he orders the knights ‘get that out of my sight.’ He is shown as selfish and is only willing to marry the princess because of her beauty. This is a complete contrast to a lord’s character in a traditional fairytale. Here he is shown as evil and selfish while in a traditional fairytale he would be kind and big-hearted.

Donkey is the first character who sees through Shrek and sees the real person behind the ogre. He is a main character as he helps the audience realise that Shrek is not all that he pretends to be and he is just scared to show his true feelings. He also helps to turn some of the scenes into a comedy. He is shown as Shrek’s advisor and Shrek listens to his answers when he is having problems. The audience sees the start of a great friendship and, although Shrek tries to brush the Donkey off, the Donkey is persistent and in the end Shrek understands the true value of their friendship. This helps to show what feelings Shrek goes through and helps to reveal him as the kind- hearted person Shrek really is, because we understand that Shrek is scared to show his good kind-hearted person he is.

The different types of camera shots used throughout the film also reveal the different character of Shrek and the Lord throughout the film. This is also shown when a low angle shot is used to make Shrek appear as though he is looking down at the fairytale characters that arrive in his swamp. He is shown as towering over these characters, showing that he has more power than the other characters in this scene. This makes him appear like a traditional ogre to the audience. When Lord Farquaad is shown looking down on Shrek and his subjects a low angle shot is used to show his superiority. Low angle shots are used in the film to reveal characters superiority and power. It helps to reveal the lord as evil and his true self but also confuses the viewers by showing Shrek as a traditional ogre. When Shrek and Donkey arrive at Dunlop a high angle shot is used to reveal the height of the tower. This makes the two characters seem more vulnerable compared to Shrek. High angle shots are used in the film to reveal characters vulnerability and this helps to reveal the true character of Shrek. Mid- angle shots are used to show the different characters socialising with each other and shows that the characters are on an equal footing and that no character has more power over the rest. This is also used in the film when Shrek and Donkey are shown relaxing together. There are also some close-ups in the films. These are used to show the true emotions of the characters. For example when there are close-ups of Shrek and Princess Fiona smiling this shows their true happiness. When there are shots of the characters backs it shows their isolation from the rest of the characters. This is used in the film when Shrek turns his back on Donkey to show the end of their friendship and also when he is sitting on the cliff edge looking out at the moon and stars.

I think high angle shots are used in the film to show characters power and dominance while the low angle shots are used to show characters vulnerability. These are used when Lord Farquaad is in the arena with his knights and Shrek is also there. He shown standing The close ups show characters reveal character’s true feelings to the audience. These are used to show Shrek’s feelings towards the princess. This helps show Shrek as the lovable and kind person he is. The mid-angle shots show that the characters are equal and this helps to show friendships and good relationships between people. This is shown when Donkey and Shrek are together. This shows their understanding of each other and how Donkey knows how Shrek feels which reveals Shrek as a kind person hiding behind an ogre’s personality, therefore showing him
as good and kind.

The main setting of the film is in Shrek’s swamp. This is the expected home of an ogre yet other creatures attempt to go into it. Donkey even attempts to set up home there. The swamp is then revealed over time as welcoming and not as it should, with dark forests and evil creatures
within. This shows Shrek as good because you can see he lives in a nice friendly place. Another setting is Lord Farquaad’s castle. Here the torture of the gingerbread man takes place and the courtyard where the knights tried to defeat Shrek. Although the castle should be a place of splendour it is revealed to be a place of violence and secrecy just like the lords character.

The lighting also helps to reveal the characters. When the princess leaves Shrek at dusk, he is staring into the black of the night at the moon which reveals his isolation. When Shrek and the princess walk through the woods, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping, showing the contentment of the characters. At the end of the film there is a bright light suggesting goodness and showing a magical fairytale ending where the two good people live happily ever after while the baddies end up dead. The only difference with Shrek’s ending is that the two people who live happily ever after are not the prettiest on the outside. Shows the audience Shrek’s feelings and how he gets upset just like any person. Show he too has a heart.

The film makers use music and sound effects to reveal the characters true selves. When the audience first meets Lord Farquaad and the hooded figures there is marching music which reveals the tension and suggests battle. Lord Farquaad wanting to go to battle suggests that he is not as good and kind as he should be. When Shrek enters the arena there is organ music that suggests the importance of Shrek’s tournament and of the Lord. When Shrek misinterprets the conversation between the Donkey and the princess there is slow music which reflects his unhappiness and his disappointment. When Shrek goes home near the end of the film there is a and promises which is supposed to make the viewers feel sad and song about broken dreams unhappy and relate to Shrek’s feelings. Shows that he too has feelings and that he too is sensitive.

At the start of the film we begin to expect a traditional fairytale but then the different presentational devices help us to reverse our expectations so that by the end of the film, the audience has discovered the true characters. By the end of the story the audience feels hatred towards the lord and they want Shrek as a friend because his character is so lovable. Shrek is revealed as lovable and fun whilst the audience have seen right through the Lord’s character and seen him as the evil and manipulative character he is. The ideas about the characters in a true fairytale are reversed yet the film still comes across as a true fairytale. The ogre who should have been an evil man-eating beast is shown as good and kind. The Lord on the other hand is shown as the bad guy of the film whereas in the traditional fairytale he would have been a true hero. The message of the story is that you can’t judge a book by its cover and that reveal a true person you have to look deep within as first impressions can be deceiving.


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